Somerset Village President John Melvin made it clear at Tuesday night's board meeting, he has serious concerns about the future of Village Park.
"You go down there and you see people that are basically tubing, right? They're taking away from local businesses (legitimate tubing businesses) by parking in our park and tubing for free. They're just using our park to park. They're not using the facilities. When they're done tubing, they're just drinking down there and we don't allow alcohol down there. I'm not saying they can't use it. Right now when it's heavily used, there's a propensity for negative stuff to happen. Those are some of the things I think we need to address. I've been down there way too many times. I wouldn't send my daughter down there and she's 12. That concerns me," said Melvin.
Long-time Somerset entrepreneur and owner of Float-Rite Park John Montpetit pointed out the negative impact of graffiti on the bridge.
"North of the rapids is like northeast Minneapolis. You wouldn't want your kids reading what's painted on the bridges. It's absolutely embarrassing to say that we even send somebody down the Apple River to go tubing. It's horrible," said Montpetit.
Montpetit questioned the current lack of a bigger police presence.
"How did it go from what the board had set up a few years ago, correct me if I'm wrong, when we had cops down there Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, correct? And the county had cops on the upper river and we had patrol people, security, in the towers. We have nothing, There's absolutely nothing out there but one Somerset cop on a Saturday. It's embarrassing," said Montpetit.
Somerset Police Chief Tom Sirovatka said he does not have the manpower to provide that kind of coverage.
"I just don't have the manpower to put five guys down there to police it all the time. I got three on patrol that are busy checking the campgrounds and handling calls within the village. If I could put 15 guys down at the river on the weekend, I'd do it. I'm doing the best I can with staffing," said Sirovatka.
Peak season on the Apple River, additional attractions drawing people into town, and fewer police and private security personnel available to patrol the park are a few of the factors contributing to the problems.
Trustee Kim Putz agreed with Melvin's evaluation and suggested townships bordering the impacted stretch of river should join the village and associated tubing businesses to come up with some solutions.
"What we need to do is, Star Prairie Township, Somerset Township, the Village of Somerset and the tubing association (there is no official tubing association) have to pull together on this thing somehow or this isn't going to continue. It can't. You've got residents that want to use that park. To charge them something to go down there now? There's nothing to offer. They get to go down there and watch inner tubers and listen to the swearing and see the drinking and whatever else and like Mr. Montpetit said, the graffiti down there on the bridge is horrendous. Somehow between the businesses and the village, we've got to create a different environment down there. The only way we're going to do that is if everybody pulls together on this thing," said Putz.
Melvin appeared encouraged by the concern shown by board members and the representatives from the tubing companies to continue talking in hopes of coming up with viable solutions. If the village plans to invest money into the park system as is supported by the recent park survey, a better result at Village Park may require a different model of managing the park. Suggestions included surveillance cameras, paid parking system, a seasonal pass for residents, signage to reduce traffic and traffic restrictions.
"I'm going to keep this on the agenda until we get some of these concerns addressed. We're going to have to look at that park in a different way. I know we're (the board) going to look at policies, procedures and ordinances to see what we can do. I hope the village employees put their heads together along perhaps with the businesses that do utilize the park and come back with some suggestions. That would be helpful," said Melvin.
Storm Water Quality Plan
MSA Professional Services Senior Project Engineer Chuck Schwartz walked board members through the highlights of a Storm Water Quality Plan a number of months in the making. Trustees were presented with a 22-page plan summary, which included a description of the Lake St. Croix Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for phosphorus. Lake St. Croix is the body of water into which Somerset storm water drains. It is impaired for phosphorus. The TMDL establishes annual phosphorus load limits for communities draining into Lake St. Croix.
Since the early 1990's the load limit from St. Croix County has been reduced from 133,000 pounds per year to 84,000 pounds per year, a reduction of 40 percent. A 40 percent reduction is the goal for the Village of Somerset.
It took four MSA water resource people 250 hours to collect GIS data from record plans covering an area of 2,062 acres to create a Source Loading and Management Model (SLAMM). The SLAMM model can estimate pollutant loads from more than 250 unique pollutant source areas including rooftops, parking areas, streets and various surfaces on soils of sand, silt or clay textures.
The Somerset SLAMM model accounts for 43 ponds and 75 landlocked basins within that 2,062 acres.
According to the summary, some of the inputs evaluated in the plan include land use (17 categories), soil types, and infiltration rates and street sweeping practices.
According to the plan, infiltration rates (swales) in Somerset vary from 0.19 inches per hour to 10.31 inches per hour.
The model showed the two most effective means of phosphorus reduction in Somerset were detention ponds (65.8 percent) and landlocked basins (100 percent).
In summary the model showed 502 acres of the 2,062 acres most responsible for phosphorus loading are currently slightly exceeding the DNR goal of 40 percent reduction. The 502 acres are estimated to be loading at a rate of 301.3 pounds per year of which 140.3 pounds per year are being trapped equaling a reduction of 47 percent.
Among the 10 recommendations the plan makes are required impact studies prior to opening landlocked basins, consider modifications to post-construction stormwater management ordinance and secure maintenance agreements for privately owned Best Management Practices (BMPs).
• Trustees approved Pay Request #2 for the Water Tower Repair Project in the amount of $158,745 payable to General Construction Services contingent on financing approval.
• Trustees approved funds not to exceed $10,490 for construction of a new concrete pad at Veterans Park.
• Trustees approved funds not to exceed $6,100 to re-engineer and repair the sewer at Chateau Court.